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This week in wellness: Fighting frostbite during a freeze

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Harsh winter weather can lead to problems for students who have long walks across campus. Credit: Muyao Shen | Asst. Photo Editor

Harsh winter weather can lead to problems for students who have long walks across campus. Credit: Muyao Shen | Asst. Photo Editor

With January well under way and temperatures fluctuating, students might be preparing for the weather to take a turn for the worse in the weeks to come. The Lantern spoke with Gladys Gibbs, director of Wilce Student Health Services, about the cold and how to prevent frostbite when temperatures dip.

Q: What is frostbite?

A: Frostbite is defined as a severe, localized, cold-induced damage or injury to a body part due to freezing of the tissue. A lesser injury may be referred to as “frostnip,” which is localized tingling and numbness of an area that improves with warming. Frostbite occurs most commonly on the ears, nose, cheeks, chin, fingers and toes.

Q: How cold does it have to be for someone to get frostbite?

A: Temperature, wind and duration of exposure are important in the causes of frostbite. The National Weather Service has developed a Windchill Chart based on science, technology and computer modeling in an attempt to calculate the dangers of freezing temperatures and freezing winds.

Q: How do you recognize it?

A: Mild symptoms can include cold, numb skin and trouble moving the affected area. The skin may feel hard and look white or gray. In cases of severe frostbite, there may be areas of black skin.

Q: How much clothing should you wear to prevent frostbite?

A: Frostbite can be prevented by wearing the appropriate coverings. Face and head protection are important. Mittens keep hands warmer than gloves. Warm, water-resistant shoes and boots can protect the toes and feet. Dressing in layers, including long underwear, fleece or wool clothing and (a) warm coat and pants, are protective. Avoiding prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures is key to preventing frostbite.

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